I knew I’d experience many firsts during my clinical fellowship (CF). At my school placement, I wrote IEPs as the sole service provider. I signed and requested diet upgrades at my position in my local skilled nursing facility. All the while, a mentor helped me with any questions.
Around April, though, I realized I had little direction on how on how to prepare to become a completely independent and certified SLP. Sure, my mentor and I completed typical “sign here, date that” paperwork, but I needed more details about transitioning from supervised to completely certified. The application process went rather smoothly; however, I found the experience somewhat daunting.
So while they’re fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a few tidbits I found helpful when finishing my clinical fellowship, applying for full certification, and preparing to use that signature you started practicing on the first day of graduate school.
- Research: Make sure you researched the application process. Does your state allow you to apply with faxed documents or emailed PDFs? I called my state association as well as ASHA and asked how to submit. I applied electronically whenever I could. Remember, no one probably touches your application until you pay state and ASHA fees. If you can, pay early.
- Save: My clinical coordinator once advised me to ask for my certification and licensure fees as a graduation present. While I really did need the nice leather briefcase my parents got me, the fees would have been nice, too. State fees and joining professional organizations are necessary to our profession, but they can get costly. In Texas, we must apply for two licenses in the same year—our intern SLP license and then our full licensure when we complete the intern/clinical fellowship experience. If you don’t want to ask for money as a graduation present, consider setting up a savings plan throughout your CF. And make sure you take advantage of an ASHA membership discount through ASHA’s Gift to the Grad program to get more bang for your buck.
- Count: I heard horror stories of applications being rejected because of miscounted hours or days not tracked with consideration of holidays. If you think your hours need to be documented, do so as a precaution. Make sure you and your supervisor review all mentoring activities and dates to ensure you have enough days or hours. I recommend keeping a spiral notebook with notes you and your mentor date and sign. This makes details easy to review and serves as supporting documentation in case you or your supervisor gets audited.
- Thank: Speaking of mentors, make sure to thank yours. It takes time and patience to nurture a new professional. Take your mentor to dinner or buy a small but thoughtful gift as a gesture of appreciation.
- Commit: None of us ever knows everything in this field. We all develop strengths and might struggle with certain challenges. One of my grad school mentors warned me to avoid getting stagnant in my clinical skills by continuing to learn and grow. I realized since I earned my Cs how important lifelong learning is to this profession. Constantly learning or honing new skills helps our clients flourish.
Zeth Everick Collom, MS, CCC-SLP, works in a public school district as well as in skilled nursing and home health settings in rural Texas. He earned his CCCs and state licensure this past May. firstname.lastname@example.org